Maybe the airline figured its reputation isn’t all that important.

Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees. […]

“We showed up and found out we had too many bags,” said Army Staff Sgt. Robert O’Hair in the video, which was shot on their flight. “We had four bags, and Delta Air Lines only allows three bags. Anything over three bags you have to pay for, even though there’s a contract between the United States government and Delta Air Lines: When returning from Afghanistan on military orders, you’re authorized up to four bags.”

O’Hair added that all the soldiers with a fourth bag had to pay $200 out-of-pocket. The total for the 34 soldiers was more than $2,800. O’Hair’s fourth piece of luggage was his weapons case, carrying the tools he used, in his words, to “protect myself and Afghan citizens while I was deployed in the country.”

A Delta representative has since apologized and vowed to reach out to the soldiers personally, but the damage appears to have been done.

A spokesperson for the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in a statement, “A $200 bill for extra baggage by a government-contracted airline is the worst welcome home any soldier could receive. We know this is a business issue and that the troops will be reimbursed if they are authorized additional baggage in their orders, but the shock of even being charged is enough to make most servicemen and women simply shake their heads and wonder who or what it is they are protecting.”

The chairman of added, “Our troops are deployed to war for months at a time — they aren’t packing light for a weekend on the beach. Delta shouldn’t be sending the signal that it puts profits ahead of the men and women in uniform.”

Keep in mind, this comes on the heels of Delta engaging in some outrageous anti-union activities, which didn’t exactly bolster the airline’s reputation.

Update: In addition to the public apology, Delta has now updated its baggage policy for “U.S. military personnel traveling on orders.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.